How do you prepare for the job of a hotshot? First and foremost, implementing a rigorous physical training program before arriving into the fire season will begin your foundation. There are plenty of online resources that can help you develop a fitness program (hotshot fitness, crossfit, etc.).
The PT program here at Lolo IHC is focused on 1.) preparing the individual for the mental and physical components of being a successful hotshot and 2.) building cohesion among team members. The core component of our PT program is that you put your best forward every day and strive to improve as it is an honor and privilege to work for Lolo IHC! This crew was established in 1961 and many before you have put in considerable work to make the program what it is today.
The foundation movement of our PT program is centered around hiking with full gear and developing strength the meet the everyday demands of the job. Hotshot packs weigh around 40-45 lbs so that is a good goal to work toward during pre-season conditioning. Our job on the fireline centers around hiking to our work site so we attempt to replicate it with PT. There are plenty of good hikes around the Missoula area that are within striking distance.
Mount Sentinel is our bread and butter hiking mountain. Located just 10-minutes from the clubhouse it's easily accessible. North Sentinel is 1.35 miles long with 1737 ft. elevation gain. Expected crew time with full gear is <50 minutes on the first day of critical. South Sentinel is 1.97 miles long with 1539 ft. elevation gain. The entire crew will hike South Sentinel with chainsaws during saw appreciation day. Every team member carries a saw on that hike - no exceptions.
Regarding running, the "Jumper Trail" is an example of a solid trail run that will prepare you for the running component of a PT program. It's 2.25 miles with 1441 ft. elevation gain. Crewmembers strive to complete the run from the Kim Williams trail to the top with running shoes and no gear (<35 minutes). Mad Maddie is another run we conduct. It's 1853 ft. elevation gain in about 1.4 miles (fastest time 29:39). In general, the crew uses running as a means to improve cardiovascular conditioning. Runs range from short duration sprints to 4-6 mile adventures in mountainous terrain.
Body weight exercises (pull-ups, push ups, sit ups, dips, and burpees) are a good way to develop strength and can be done at nearly any location. When the crew assembles, we use the clubhouse as a "box" gym to work on strength training and conditioning a couple times a week. Tabata, Fight gone bad, Murph (crossfit), BLM Fitness test, etc. are conditioning routines/challenges that greatly benefit applicants in preparation for arrival. Pre-season work outs should be centered around the core body developmental aspects of being a proficient hotshot (cardiovascular, physical, and mental strength).
If selected, you will be assigned a "strength" coach that will check in on your development as the winter/spring season progresses before the start of critical. We cannot emphasize enough that if selected, get to Missoula and start hiking and running Mt. Sentinel. BLM Fitness test is a good indicator of fitness before pre-season and it is regularly used to gauge applicants readiness.
For reference, Missoula, MT sits at 3209' elevation.
2022 Pre-season BLM Fitness Test averages...
1.5 Mile: 9:33
Lolo IHC employees have a unique opportunity to take part in a multitude of NWCG and developmental training courses. There are 2 training centers located in the Missoula valley (Northern Rockies Training Center and Southwest Montana Wildland Fire Training Center). Programatically we place a strong emphasis on training/development of our employees. Having the two training centers in close proximity also creates opportunities for our employees (primarily permanent) to participate as lead and unit instructors. It is an expectation of our program to seize these opportunities and contribute back to firefighter and agency development.
Pre Season Assignments
Permanent Lolo IHC employees have a unique opportunity to partake in pre-season assignments across the country before the crew begins critical training. With a permanent staff of up to 17 employees, there are options to gain quality experience and work on taskbooks in different geographical locations.